Charlie Parker was born ninety-seven years ago today in Kansas City. The date makes me think of my favorite jazz photograph, two versions of which are here, by Bob Parent. The Open Door in Greenwich Village in September 1953. Very few historic jazz photographs render the whole band. For my money, this could be the greatest quartet ever assembled. But as far as we know they were never recorded, except in Parent’s photographs.
Drummer Roy Haynes is the only one of these fellows still around. He owns a Delorean (for real). Maybe if we could get in his Delorean and floor it to 88mph, and if the flux capacitor kicked in, then we could go back to this moment. One thing we might discover, though, is that things weren’t so glorious: The joint was a shit hole and it smelled even worse, the band had to play sets until 3am, the money wasn’t all that good, the food was brutal, and nobody was really listening. That’s what Haynes told me in 2004 anyway. I learned over time that Roy likes to be contrary and provocative, especially to gullible white writers with facial hair, but I also don’t think he was making things up. He was choosing to emphasize what normally goes unsaid.